Tag Archive: self-publishing


Some useful tips / links – and thanks.

Wotcha peeps:

Further to last week’s excerpt, I’d just like to say thank you to everyone who took the time to read it and give feedback, whether here, on the forums or by email; your feedback is much appreciated!

For anyone that is interested in improving their own writing style, here are some of the useful bits of information and style-hints that I’ve collated from all your answers. Hope you find them interesting and / or useful – and if you have any other tips to add, please do – you know where the comment box is.

 1) Take out as many uses of was/had etc as possible. Apparently a typical beginner’s error is to use them too much, ie “was waiting” instead of “waited” or “had eaten” instead of “ate”. Though there are small differences of meaning between the different uses of the verb, the point is that when you use “was waiting” the reader is reading a description of what the character is doing (thus adding a layer of distance between reader and action) whereas when you say “waited” the reader has to imagine the action happening, and because there is no layer of description getting in the way, it makes it all a lot more immediate and gripping.  (Show don’t tell, remember?) Same with other “layers” that aren’t necessary, like “seemed to” “became aware of” etc.

Example: He had waited in the shadows, hiding until he became aware that she was walking round the corner. He had snatched the hat she was wearing and was running away as she yelled “Stop” and lobbed a small donkey at him.

Should be: He waited in the shadows, hiding until she walked round the corner. He snatched the hat she wore and ran away as she yelled [etc]

2) “He said / she remarked / they commented / it mused” etc etc. These are used too often and slow down the text unnecessarily – either transfer what they thought into reported speech or leave out attributions where poss. If you know there are two people having a conversation it is fairly obvious who is speaking once you’re into it.

Example:

“Why did you throw a donkey at me?” he asked.

“Why did you nick my hat?” she countered.

“Because it’s a nice colour and it would suit me” he told her, amazed that she could not see this.

“You’re a nutter!” she muttered, and left, hat in hand.

Should be:

 “Why did you throw a donkey at me?” he asked.

“Why did you nick my hat?”

“Because it’s a nice colour and it would suit me.” Surely this was obvious?

“You’re a nutter!” Hat in hand, she left.

Useful websites:

Ray Rhamey – Flogging the Quill

April L Hamilton – Indie Author

I’m sure there’ll be others so I’ll try to add any more sites to my Links page as I find them.

=======

As a newbie, it’s been really useful to have my bad habits pointed out, because it’s very difficult to see that sort of thing for yourself (obviously, or you’d have stopped it by now!). Also I’ve been sent in the direction of a variety of websites that have interesting or insightful points on them – always good to have a read and see what tips you can get from writers of really snappy prose.

I’ve been going through my story and have done a quick edit based on the feedback I received. Reading through it afterwards, I think the amount of difference made by a couple of small stylistic tips has been tremendous. I’m about to send it off to my second editor and proof-reader, and he seems to be quite excited at the altered first chapter (though he hasn’t seen the rewritten bits yet) so I figure I can’t have gone far wrong with it so far.

The other thing I wanted to say was that I’ve been really impressed by the constructiveness and the positivity of the comments I’ve had in all three arenas, and from feeling really fed-up and a bit lost in it all, your feedback has completely re-enthused me about my editing. Yes – you read that correctly, folks – I am actually really enjoying the process again! You should all be impressed by the power of your words and positivity, and if – WHEN – “On Dark Shores” finally does hit Kindle, you should all know that each of you has had a hand in getting it there…

My thanks to all!

JAC

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The times they are a-changin’……

I was chatting to a friend the other day – my sister went to college with her so she’s about my sister’s age (which is to say about a decade older than I). We got to talking about books and writing, and she told me that she too is in the throes of polishing her own story, which is more fiction than fantasy. She is submitting it to all sorts of publishers and agents and was getting the most encouraging letters gushing about her story in terms that made it clear that they hadn’t even read the damn thing – and of course when she looked into it further, it became clear that the publishers in question were vanity publishers. I asked her if she had considered self-pub, and the following conversation was something of an eye-opener to me.

 

Since the iPad came out a year back, I’ve been really interested to watch the growth of awareness of ebooks in the UK, but I am always aware that it is difficult to tell when it’s only your own growing knowledge and what is general knowledge; but as far as I can tell, very roughly it’s been along these lines – in London, at least!

 

Spring 2010: ebooks? Whohellhe?

 

Summer 2010: Apparently you can read books electronically on the iPad, you know. Like pdfs or something.

 

Autumn 2010: Have you seen all the ads around the Tube and on the telly for the Kindle?

 

Winter 2010; I’m getting an iPad / Kindle for Christmas. Can’t wait!

 

And by January 2011 (ie now) Waterstones are putting out their own ebook-specific newsletter, a lot of people are discussing agency pricing and ebooks are taking off slowly but surely. I suspect it’s only a matter of time before you start getting a regular ebook review in one or other of the big papers if there isn’t one already, as the Times (to name only one) did a review of the top ten bestsellers of 2010.

 

So in London at least, ebooks are getting more accepted. You see people reading Kindles on the train, the Tube, the bus all the time where this time last year it was something of a novelty. There are adverts on the telly for Kindle, and most of the big publishers are bringing out books simultaneously on both media. Fairly main-stream, I thought; then I went back ooop North at Christmas and of course they haven’t had the saturation you’ve seen in the South. As always, London leads the wave because London has the information and the disposable income; no-one bothers to plaster the North with Kindle posters with the result that they might see the odd advert on the telly but there seems to be no real recognition of the sort of step-change that is going on.

 

My lot are fairly bookish and they were all giving paper copies at Christmas. I got a Kindle for Christmas and none of them had seen one before or knew anyone else who was getting one for Christmas. Apple managed to cover the whole country but Kindle, bizarrely, appear to have missed a significant chunk out. Oh, they’ll get there in a few months – summer will see them as Kindled up as the rest of us – at least the more techtastic ones with the spare income to actually buy it in the first place – but it was an interesting check to my views.

 

These were further drawn back when I talked with my sister’s friend. Only ten years older than me and living more centrally than North, still she was not particularly  knowledgeable about ebooks or epublishing; in fact it took me ten minutes to explain the difference between self-publishing and vanity publishing. POD was something she hadn’t heard of and ebooks seemed intangible and basically a step  up from a blog, I suspect; she was interested to hear what I had to say but knew that she wanted to be traditionally published by a “proper” publisher.

 

I told her about my own research into it; how my partner used to work in the bookselling industry and where there used to be hundreds of new books published every year, now there was hardly a tenth of that number, and a lot of those seem to be by reality stars or popsters or other people who have had their fifteen minutes’ fame and want to cash in on it while their name is still recognised. In my view, in hard economic times, the chances of being picked up by a publisher are small and by all accounts the chances of being given the time to build up a following are minimal. A literary friend talked of her colleague who had been picked up by a publisher and had books on the shelves of every bookshop in town for maybe six weeks; after which the publisher decided it wasn’t selling fast enough and pulped the lot, leaving the author stuck in a contract with no books to sell. Another author tells of an editor agreeing to publish the book if she changed the ending to an anodyne happily ever after which would have totally changed the character of the book, destroying the whole point of it.

 

Now, I don’t think my story is by any means flawless – that why it’s in the process of going through an editor and a proof-reader before being released to my beta-readers – but I would be seriously cross if they carved it up in a manner that meant they missed the point. So far all my edits have been great, carving off the excess or superfluous bits and tautening up the action. But that said, neither do I expect to be an overnight success – in six weeks if I’ve sold twenty-five copies I’ll be chuffed, not least because I don’t have much in the way of time to spend publicising it. I wish I did but alas the day-job has to pay the rent so the day-job wins on that front, especially in a time of cuts and down-sizing.

 

So for me, all the downsides of trad publishing overmounted the plusses – and when I knew that self-publishing seemed to be such a viable option, I went for that instead. I’ve never submitted my stuff to an agent, so it’s not a case of having been turned down by everyone else; I just did the research and thought that I could envisage my little story pottering along in Kindle-form and selling the odd one here and there; hopefully eventually selling enough to pay for itself and for the paperback form that will follow afterwards. I don’t have much time full stop so devoting time to the writing and the editing and the input and the formatting is proving difficult, never mind the publicity; but I have always known that if ever I am to make my mark on this world (and that’s not a given by any means) – that IF I ever do, it will be via my writing. This seems the simplest and most logical way to start undertaking just that.

 

I also think that the advent of ebooks is a complete game-changer and I want to be in on it. All my instincts are telling me that if I can just get a foot in the door at the right moment, it may be that I can go part-time with the day-job, or even go onto writing full-time and really put a bit or work into my writing. I think ebooks are going to go as far as mp3s have, and I think if you can make a name as someone whose books have been edited, proofed, properly formatted with a full active Table of Contents, and all the other technical quirks required by Kindle, Apple and the rest; if you can do that NOW while the market is in its early days, then the possibilities are very good. So that’s what I aim to do; to make my books as professional as anything you might find in a bookshop or from a trad publisher. (Of course, all I have to do now is magically find an extra couple of hours in every day, but that’s by the by!)

 

A year from now, my sister’s friend and I will be coming back to take stock of progress. You can’t really draw direct comparisons, of course, but it will be really interesting to see how each of us fares. It may be that she is agented up, with a contract and the first hardcopies rolling off the press and hitting the shelves at bookshops across the country, while I am still lurking on Twitter saying “Anyone want to buy a book?!”; or it may be that my ebooks are flying off virtual shelves to the extent that my hardcopies will be merrily rolling off the POD printers, who knows?

 

At all events, I think it’s going to be fun – hard work, granted, but hopefully fun too – finding out.

JAC

 

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